MOSCOW, June 7. /TASS/. Russia has no immediate plans for pulling its troops out of Syria, but it does not build long-term facilities there, either, President Vladimir Putin said in a question-and-answer session on Thursday.
"As for the presence of our military (in Syria - TASS), the military contingent issue is not simple at all. There are two sites where it is deployed. One is in the port of Tartus, and the other (aviation one), at Hmeymim," Putin said.
"We have no plans for pulling these units out for now. But let me draw your attention to the fact that I did not call these deployment sites ‘bases.’ We are not building long-term facilities there. If need be, we will be able to promptly withdraw our military personnel at no material costs," he said.
Putin recalled that the Russian deployment sites were in Syria in accordance with a a treaty with the Syrian government in full conformity with international law.
"Our military personnel are there for ensuring the interests of Russia in this crucial region of the world. And they will remain there as long as Russia finds it reasonable in accordance with our international commitments," Putin said.
According to Putin, the Syrian opposition is a unique combat experience for the Russian armed forces.
"The use of our armed forces in combat conditions is a unique experience and unique instrument of improvement. No exercise is like the use of military hardware in real combat," Putin said in reply to a question from a resident of Karachay-Cherkessia.
"Yes, we do know that using the armed forces in combat implies losses. We shall never forget about these losses, and we shall never stop taking care of the families of our comrades who have not returned to us from Syrian soil," Putin said.
He pointed out that Russian military personnel in Syria was on an important and noble mission of protecting the interests of Russia, because thousands of militants, including Russian and Central Asian natives, have gathered in Syria.
"First, it is better to eliminate them there than to confront them here weapons in hand. Second, our military effort has contributed to stabilization inside Syria," Putin said.
He recalled that the Syrian army and Syrian government today controlled a territory accounting for more than 90% of the country’s population.
"Large-scale combat operations, in particular, those involving the Russian armed forces, have come to an end. There is no need for them at all. Peace settlement is on the agenda. This is what we are working on today," Putin.
Putin said that Syria’s territory is not a training range for Russian weapons, but they are upgraded there in combat conditions.
"It is a truly invaluable experience, which I’ve already mentioned, of both the use of the Armed Forces and the use of cutting-edge weapons. I want to specify, when I am speaking about the most advanced weapons, it is not a firing range," he said. "Syria is not a training range for the Russian weapons. However, we still employ weapons there and they are Russian weapons. As a result, modern strike systems, including the missile ones, have been upgraded."
"When we began trials of those modern weapons, including missile ones, teams from our defense industry enterprises left for the Syrian republic and they perfected those weapons at the scene. It is extremely important for us to realize what we can expect by employing [the weapons] in combat conditions," the president said.
In addition, many officers and generals have visited Syria’s combat zones.
"They have begun to understand what a present-day armed conflict looks like, how important are communications, intelligence and interaction between different units and formations and how important it is to secure operation of the space group, the air force and the ground force, including special operations," Putin said.
"All this has allowed us to make another milestone step in modernizing our Armed Forces," he said.